By Wally Kennedy
AURORA, Mo. — Thomas Patterson and Whitney Harrison, students at Crowder College in Neosho, got a crash course Monday in modern farming methods when they signed up for U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt’s 13th annual Southwest Missouri Agricultural Tour.
The two were among nearly 50 people who participated in the first day of the two-day tour that started in Springfield and concluded in Sarcoxie. The tour today will feature stops in Springfield and Morrisville.
Harrison, who is interested in agricultural education and marketing, said she was impressed with a poultry farm where rows of trees have been planted to diminish odor.
“Planting trees to reduce the pollution — the odor — was interesting,” she said, noting that it is something she might use in a classroom someday. “It’s going to take a lot of testing and experimentation to determine what works best.”
Patterson, whose family has been in the dairy business for 60 years, said the tour will visit a couple of dairy farms.
“I’m looking for cheaper ways to produce milk,” he said. “I don’t believe there is a cheaper way, but I’m looking.”
Farming operations in Southwest Missouri, he noted, have been hit hard by increasing energy and feed costs.
Monday’s tour started with a stop at a demonstration garden in Nathanael Greene Park in southwest Springfield where Master Gardeners have created a French potager, or kitchen garden. The tour then went to a poultry farm operated by Jim and Sharon Shepherd, east of Aurora.
The Shepherds operate four poultry houses with more than 90,000 birds. They are participating in a federal demonstration project that places three rows of bushes and trees around the poultry barns to reduce odor.
The $25,000 test was designed by Skip Mourglia, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Trees stretching more than a mile also are being planted to reduce odor emanating from Moark operations in Newton County.
Mourglia said the trees and shrubs — viburnum, red cedar, white pine, cypress and loblolly pine — are container-grown and cost about $15.30 each to purchase and plant.
“This odor-break planting could be important in areas where growth is happening, like here in eastern Lawrence County,” she said. “Poultry farmers want to be good neighbors.”
As dust particles from the poultry barns move through the trees, they come into contact with the trees and drop to the ground. The types of trees that have been planted have receptors in their leaves and needles that react to the chemical compounds emitted by the poultry barns.
“The trees, when they are taller, force the air from the chicken houses to rise where they mix with air aloft,” Mourglia said. “That will dilute the odor.”
The agency, she said, has purchased a scentometer to determine whether the trees “actually take up and reduce the odor.”
The trees were planted in April 2007 by FFA students from Miller. Jay Shepherd, son of Jim and Sharon Shepherd, is an FFA teacher at Miller. He said the planting of trees was not triggered by complaints from neighbors.
“No complaints,” he said. “We’re just being proactive.”
He said the biggest challenges facing poultry farmers are energy and heating costs. The increasing cost of propane has reduced the profit margin, but the demand for chicken is still strong, he said.
About the trees, Blunt said it is a great example of how poultry farmers might be able to diminish the impact of their operations on the lives of people who are moving into rural areas.
The tour continued with a stop at the new $4.8 million expansion of Tyson Foods’ wastewater-treatment plant in Monett. Tyson operates a poultry-processing plant that renders 280 birds per minute. Processing each bird requires 4 gallons of water. The plant, in its 40th year of operation, uses 1.1 million gallons of water per day.
The expansion treats the water before it is sent to the Monett wastewater plant. It also captures nutrients that can be used for animal feed.
A Tyson spokesman said the pre-treatment provides the plant with capacity to grow and reduces the creation of sludge that would have been spread on nearby farmland.
Pete Rauch, water superintendent in Monett, said the pre-treatment was “badly needed for a long time. They are now doing an excellent job with the water they are sending us.”
Rauch said 70 percent of the water in Monett is consumed by industry and that Tyson is the biggest of six industrial users.
“It certainly is saving us money,” he said. “For us to build a plant to remove solids from the water they use would be very, very costly to us.”
The city used 1.2 billion gallons of water last year, he said.
Reducing the land application of sludge from the plant, Rauch said, will help streams in the area.
According to the most recent estimates, Missouri had 107,825 farms in 2007. That compares with 106,797 in 2002. The average farm size decreased from 280 acres in 2002 to 269 acres in 2007.
In 2007, crop and livestock sales totaled $7.5 billion, which was up 51 percent compared with total sales of $4.9 million in 2002. Missouri ranked 12th among the states in 2007 for total value of agricultural products sold.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Farmers attempt to reduce environmental impact<font color="#ff0000"> w/ slide show from ag tour</font>
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By Wally Kennedy
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- SLIDESHOW: Missouri football playoffs begin Globe photographers covered games in Carl Junction, Webb City and Jasper as the district playoffs begin.